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WWII Era Bomb Found and Removed from Wilton Simpson Technical College Construction Site

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Around 3 p.m. on Feb. 6, a local construction crew made a rather explosive discovery. The team found an intact and unexploded ordnance (UXO) that appeared to have been buried for “a number of decades,” according to Michael Terry, Deputy Public Information Officer with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. They were unearthing ground to make way for a parking lot for the Wilton Simpson Technical College, which is set to be a standalone technical school located at the Dennis Wilfong Center for Success. The future educational complex, due for completion in March of 2025, broke ground in August of 2023.

Following an investigation into the device later that afternoon, Terry and company came to believe that it is likely World War II era. Seeing as bombing runs for B-17 and B-24 bombers used to be conducted in the area during the war, the sheriff’s office surmised that those exercises were where the ordnance originated. Once the explosive was found and reported, deputies arrived on the scene and decided to get the experts’ opinions. They requested the help of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Bomb Team to determine the threat level of the device.

As our local sheriff’s office awaited the verdict, they took precautions to protect the public. They shut down the eastbound and westbound stretches of Spring Hill Drive from California Street to US 41, which naturally rerouted much of the traffic to Powell Road. This created some congestion for a couple of hours while the threat level was determined.

It did not take the squad long to determine that the bomb was inert and also appeared to be waterlogged. According to the PIO, the last thing any of the crews want to do is explode a bomb on site, so they will exhaust all other options first if need be. Thankfully, that did not have to happen. Late Tuesday evening, MacDill Air Force Base was called to provide a judgment on the UXO. According to US Air Force Second Lieutenant Laura Anderson, after reviewing publications and “open-source UXO identification sites,” the base’s EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team determined that its features were consistent with that of an M34. They also found that the shell was empty and posed no “explosive threat.” Afterward, the team assisted with the immediate removal of the inactive explosive and transported it to MacDill. A museum may then be “interested in displaying it as part of an exhibit” once the air force base’s EOD team releases the ordnance, Anderson added.

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Terry did not rule out the possibility of more such casings on the site, considering the former nature of it, though he hopes for the best. “There definitely could be,” Terry said. “Over the years, we have found ordnances all over the county just because we have the airport here. We had bomb testing up to the north as well. So, in some of our communities like Brookridge and up in High Point, unexploded ordnance has been located. As always, Citrus usually responds, or MacDill, first to make sure it is inert and then help with the disposal of it. So, hopefully not, but there is definitely the possibility.”

Finding such explosives is not altogether uncommon, but it is “few and far between.” While an occurrence like this is relatively infrequent, the sheriff’s office is called for one or two such discoveries every year. Ideally, this would hopefully be the final unexploded device to be unearthed in the county.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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